Davidson v. Sharpe, 28 N.C. 14, 6 Ired. 14 (1845)

Dec. 1845 · Supreme Court of North Carolina
28 N.C. 14, 6 Ired. 14


Where a decree or judgment in another State is produced in evidence in one of our Courts, it is not necessary to shew, by any extrinsic evidence, that the judgment or decree was warranted by the laws of the State in which it was pronounced. The judgment or decree itself is the highest evidence of that fact.

A judgment or decree, pronounced in any State, against an inhabitant of another State, upon whom process in the suit has not been served, is only binding in the State, in which such judgment or decree has been rendered. Where a bond is offered in evidence, and the obligor offers to shew that the bond has been declared fraudulent by a Court of Equity, and that it should be surrendered, the evidence is inadmissible, because the bond, being uucancelled, is still good at law, and the obligor can only proceed in 1 equity to enforce the decree by process of contempt.

The case of Irhj v. Wilson, 1 Dev. and Bat. Eq. 568. cited and approved,

Appeal from the- Superior Court of Law of Iredell County, at the special term in November, 1845, his Honor Judge Dick presiding.

This action is debt on a bond, and the plea is a set-off of a larger sum, due on a bond of the plaintiff to the defendant. On the trial, the defendant proved the latter bond as pleaded ; and the plaintiff then offered to give in evidence the transcript of the proceedings in a suit, instituted in a Court of Equity in the State of Tennessee, *15■upon the bill of the present plaintiff against the defendant, in which the Court declared that the bond, now pleaded as a set-oif, was obtained by the defendant from the plaintiff fraudulently, and decreed that the defendant should deliver the same into that Court to bo cancelled.

The defendant objected to receiving the evidence, because it appeared in the transcript, that the defendant did not appear in the cause, and had not been served with a pi'ocess in the suit, and that he was not a citizen or resident in Tennessee, but was a citizen and inhabitant of North Carolina; and that the Court proceeded to make the decree upon an order, taking the matter of the plaintiff’s bill as confessed, by reason of the default of the defendant in not appearing therein, after a notification to do so, which was published, for a- certain period, in a newspaper printed in Tennessee.

The presiding Judge was of opinion, that it was necessary to the admission of the evidence, that the plaintiff should otherwise prove, that by the law of Tennessee, the Court was authorised to make a decree against a nonresident person upon such publication. The plaintiff did not offer any further evidence, and was non-suited ; and he appealed.

No Counsel in this Court for the plaintiff.

Boyden, for the defendant.

Ruffin, C. J.

The Court thinks the defendant’s objection good, though not precisely on the ground taken by his Honor. The regularity of judicial proceedings in another State, according to the law of that State, cannot be enquired of here. If an attempt were made to prove that law here, what eAddence as high could be adduced as those proceedings themselves ? They are the solemn official acts of Judges, whose peculiar province it is to administer and expound the laws of their country. No witnesses could be more relied on for their knowledge of *16the subject, nor the sanctions under which their opinions would be declared. Our Courts cannot set themselves above the Courts of Tennessee in determining what is her law. Therefore, as it was said by the Court in Irby v. Wilson, 1 Dev. and Bat. Eq. 568, every judgment, whether final or interlocutory, proves itself to be the regular and right one, according to the law of the country in which it was given. Consequently no other evidence was requisite on that point.

But, although the proceedings and the decree are to be deemed strictly correct, according to the law of Tennessee, the Court holds, according' to the case just cited, that they have no validity here, because the defendant was not in fact made a party to the suit. That State cannot pass a law to operate out of her territory, or to authorise her Courts to act on things or persons not within her ju^ risdiction. Such a statute may bind her own Courts; but the Courts of other States cannot acknowledge its obligation, or aid in executing it, even indirectly.

There is, however, another ground, on which the objection ought to have been sustained. The evidence was irrelevant, and for that reason ought to have been reject-, od, had it been a decree of a Court of Equity of this State. It established no fact material to the issue in this suit. The decree operates in personam only, and professes to do no more. It is to be enforced only by process of contempt. It does not render this bond less the obligation of the plaintiff in law, than it was before the decree, While it is in existence, unpaid and uncancelled, a Court of Law is obliged to hold it to be the party’s deed, leaving the Court of Equity to act on its suitors, as it is quite able effectually to do. As a decree of a Court of Equity of another State, not for money, but requiring acts by the defendant personally in Court, it is plain that a Court of Law here is not competent to enforce it, but the application should be to that tribunal that has a like jurisdiction in personam, and could compel the perform-*17■anee of the specific act decreed, and restrain the defendant from any unconscientious use of the instrument in the meanwhile.

Per Curiam. Judgment affirmed.